Yesterday we had an *early* Ancient India fieldtrip when we attended our local Hare Krishna temple to see the pageant of the Ramayana performed on an outside stage.
We'll be exploring Ancient India in October, but we couldn't pass up this golden opportunity to see the epic performed live. I took my oldest girls by myself, since our youngest aren't ready for all the noise and fireworks (my four year old boy is sensitive to and a bit afraid of fireworks and loud noises).
Due to rain, the first pre-pageant performance on the Indian Sitar was canceled. But we were still able to get a bowl of tasty, spicy, tofu summer squash Curry, Palak paneer and Aloo Gobi over rice. Marie didn't care for any of it (she's picky about mixing food and hates heavy sauces or beans) and Sophie has a hard time with spicy (but loved the Aloo Gobi). But Becky and I enjoyed all of the tasty fare.
|Finding a place to sit after arriving.|
|Becky and Sophie's attention is rapt as the Bharatanatyam style dance begins.|
|Sophie petting a Llama. It was so cool outside that I found it necessary to buy some things in the gift shop to keep the girls warm.|
|Marie checking out an animal that looks to be a cross between a bull and a camel. I'm not sure what kind of animal this is, anybody know?|
|To escape the crowd, one of the many peacocks found it necessary to fly to a higher perch, away from the fray.|
|Statues of Lord Rama and his most beautiful and divine wife, Sita.|
|Ravana the evil one. He'll be burnt in effigy later in the evening.|
|Kaikeyi considering her options as the old hag murmurs that it would be wise to exile Prince Rama from the kingdom.|
About an hour before sundown the pageant begins!
The epic of the Ramayana has been celebrated for thousands of years and is well known and loved in India, Nepal, Laos, Burma, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Cambodia, Assam, Bhutan, China and Tibet.
The Ramayana is one of two great Sanskrit epics that perserve the mystical, religious and cultural traditions of Ancient India. Ramayana can be translated as "Rama's Journey." For several thousand years it was only perserved through oral tradition, until India's first poet, Valmiki, wrote the epic down. It isn't just a legend, but an allegorical compilation of Hindu wisdom and relgious teachings. It explores how to become the ideal king, parent, sibling, spouse, and servant. The Ramayana and its teachings pervade every aspect of Indian culture and life.
Lord Rama is supposedly based on the true historical figure of Lord Ramachandra, who is a reincarnation of the great Trimurti god Vishnu. Vishnu (the Perserver) along with Brahma (the Creator) and Shiva (the Destroyer) make up the Trimurti, or trinity, in Hinduism. Rama is the seventh avatar, or reincarnation, (wonder where the inspiration for the Cameron movie came from?) of Vishnu the perserver.
The story of Rama and Sita is exciting and romantic. King Dasartha, Lord Rama's father, had three wives. Since the one named Kaikeyi had saved his life, Dasaratha granted her two benedictions, or decrees. Kaikeyi said she'd take the benedictions later when it came time to coronate King Dasartha's oldest son Ramachandra. Ramachandra was the son of another of Dasartha's three wives. When it was time to coronate Rama, Kaikeyi used her two decrees to banish Rama, his brother Laksmana and his wife Sita, to the forest for 14 years. Her second decree was to make her own son, Bahrat, the king instead.
|Laksmana, Rama and Sita in the forest.|
|Lord Ram singing a love song to his beloved Sita.|
|Ravana with 5 of his 10 heads. The other five are on the back of the hat and have frownie faces.|
While in the forest, Rama and his family went through many hardships. On one occasion they encountered the hag Surpanakha, the sister of the ten headed demon Ravana. She disguised herself as a beauty, and was quite taken with Rama, offering to be his bride. When he refused her, she showed her true face and unbridled her lust and jealousy by trying to kill Sita. Because she was a woman, Rama didn't kill her, but cut off her nose and ears instead (cutting off the nose to spite the face? lol).
When Lord Ravana, the evil demon King of Lanka, heard about what happened to his sister, he vowed revenge and planned to kidnap the beautiful Sita and have her all to himself. The yogi Marica, at Ravana's bidding, assumed the form of a golden deer and lured Rama away from the ashram where he and his family were staying. Afraid for her husband, Sita begged Laksmana to go after Ram. Laksmana drew a circle of protection around the ashram and bade Sita not to step over it so she could remain protected from demons.
But, of course, Ravana came to the Ashram disguised as a fasting and meditating Brahmin seeking alms. Sita didn't want to sin by not giving alms, so against her better judgment she stepped, over the line to give alms and was kidnapped by the demon Ravana. The vulture Jatayu tried to save her, but to no avail. Ravana took Sita to his island across the Indian Ocean in what is now modern day Sri Lanka.
When Rama found his beloved missing, he searched high and low, eventually amassing a huge army of monkeys and other forest creatures. In order to cross the 800 miles of water separating Sri Lanka from mainland India, Lord Rama ordered the monkeys to write Rama's name on large mountain peaks and boulders. They threw them into the sea. With the name of Lord Rama on them, the rocks floated and created a bridge to Ravana's island. The vast army marched across the ocean and defeated Ravana after a fierce battle. Ravana shot an arrow at Ravana that pierced him "like a thunderbolt," and the demon perished. Rama found his beloved Sita unharmed, and they flew back to the kingdom on a "flower bedecked airplane." The whole kingdom shouted for joy, threw flowers, and partied like it was 1999.
|It took a couple of tries, but the flaming arrows finally hit their mark.|
What was so great about this pageant is that they had created an "island" and we followed the actors playing Rama and his family as they carried torches to the other part of the temple grounds. It reminded me a bit of how St. Martin's day in Germany is celebrated by following St. Martin on a white horse through the village.
When we got to the pond Lord Rama shot his fire arrows at the huge Ravana and the whole thing exploded in flame. Afterward we danced to the loud Mantra Band singing the mantra Hare Krishna's are known for:
Hare Krishna Hare Krishna
Krishna Krishna Hare
HareRama Rama Hare Hare
The band was a little too loud, so we left after the second song...but not after we went a little crazy dancing with the crowd. Becky and I had a blast doing the twist together.
|Burn, Ravana, burn! I heard a New Age-ish lady behind me say: "See, now ALL the negative energy has been released!"|
|Ding Dong Ravana's dead! Time to party!|
|On the steps of the temple.|
|Marie in her new tunic, thrilled with the whole adventure.|
The moon was full and absolutely brilliant. What my children and I loved about this experience was the unadulterated joy that this culture and religion offers. I don't think anyone left the pageant without a smile on their face.